Tag Archives: WordPress Blues

#Amblogging: WordPress: If it ain’t broke, we’ll fix that

OuroborosI’ve been blogging for about five years now. I turn out three posts a week, mostly on the craft of writing but sometimes on other aspects of my life. As a courtesy, I always link back to quoted authors’ websites and also insert links to other good reference posts elsewhere on the internet.

However, the once simple task of “inserting a link” has lately become quite difficult. Some days I don’t feel like I have the patience to blog anymore, and that lack of enthusiasm is all thanks to the folks at WordPress, where the new motto is “If it ain’t broke, we’ll fix that.”

A few months ago, the fine people at WP decided that those of us who prefer to blog using the old, more functional dashboard could simply screw ourselves, and they attempted to force us to use the “improved posting experience” which is anything but an improvement.

WPBlues2_prnt_scrn_3However, those of us who are determined to use the better dashboard can still get to it by:

  1. Opening the “My Sites” menu (top left of screen)
  2. When the menu drops down, look for the words “WP Admin” and click on it (don’t click on “Posts” yet)
  3. Once the second, new menu opens, THEN Scroll down to “Posts” and click “add new”

That takes you to the standard dashboard with all the functionality we are used to, with the buttons and other information we may use in the right places. The old dashboard is easier to use for those of us with impaired vision, as (for me) the pale blue on white of the new one blends together to become a wall of white.

Oh, we still have to look at the constant demand to “switch to the improved posting experience” but we can ignore that: We just go ahead and enter our blog post title as if that little bit of subtle bullying on WP’s part was not there. (Thanks, WordPress, for not giving us the option to turn that exceedingly untruthful notice off.)

I thought that would be the end of the misery for a while, but no! Here I am again, posting the workaround for yet another UN-improvement by the developers at WordPress, who are completely out of touch with the needs of real-world bloggers.

WPBlues2_prnt_scrn_4I’m not sure why they felt compelled to break the usefulness of this platform even further, but they did. As of last week when they changed the uploader box for inserting links into my content, I am finding their product is once again, incredibly difficult to use.

Normally, I key my posts into a WORD document and then copy and paste them into the body of the post. I insert my links into the document, and then edit them to make sure they open in a new window once the post is loaded here.  I also often have to do a lot of other editing once the post is loaded here.

However, the minute you have to insert or edit a link in the body of your post, things become sticky.

Let’s say I want to insert a link to Dictionary.com for the word “DYSFUNCTIONAL

  1. I open a new page and google “dysfunctional”
  2. I click on the webpage and open it.
  3. I highlight the page address in my browser and right-click copy
  4. I return to the open page for my WordPress post and highlight the word “dysfunctional”
  5. I place my cursor on the little chain icon in the task bar at the top of my post and left-click on it to open the insert link box
  6. When the box opens, don’t think you can just paste it into the box, and click on the blue arrow–because the link will go away.WPBlues2_prnt_scrn_5
  7. Instead paste the copied website address into the URL box, click on the  little gear,
  8. A new menu will open and you will click on the “add link” button in the lower right hand corner of the larger box.
  9. Be aware that when you click the box that says “open in new window,” the link will sometimes vanish. Then you get to play this game all over again.

The other wonderful new advantage of this less-than-useful link insertion system is that the annoying “Paste URL or type to search” box often won’t go away once you have successfully pasted the link.  This means you can’t key or change any words hidden by the box.

But as for everything else WordPress, there is a work-around for that, and Grandma will find it:

  1. Simply place the cursor elsewhere in the body of the blog post,(pick a random word and don’t highlight it) and
  2. click on the “insert link” icon again. This time don’t insert anything.
  3. With the cursor still on the body of the post, simply left click on an un-highlighted area and the box will finally go away, and you can once again write your post.
  4. Sometimes the only way to get the insert/edit link box to go away is to scroll back up to the right-hand “publish” menu and either click “save draft” or, if your post is already scheduled or live, click “update.”
  5. This is a problem even when I have inserted the links in my post in a WORD document before copying and pasting, as I still have to make sure they open in a new window.

I would like to not be blogging about WordPress workarounds. I would like for the nice people at WordPress to address the shortcomings of this new system and reconnect with their users.

I would also like to be able to recommend WordPress to new bloggers.

As Hal 9000 once said, “I’m sorry, Dave. I can’t do that.”

Ouroboros definition

The other issue is that these problems are random. Sometimes this thing works as it was designed, and then the next time you need to insert a link, it fails.

If you go out and check the forums for this issue, you will see that the stock, canned answer by the forum mod is always: Have you tried deactivating your plugins?

On this particular blog, I am NOT running any plugins, nor have I ever ran any. Thus, that particular canned answer does not cut it, and there doesn’t seem to be any other answer out there.

WordPress developers and tech support need to rely less on the Ouroboros model of customer satisfaction and become connected with the users. There is a real disconnect between what the powers-that-be at WordPress want to give us, and what we long-time users need to have available. I have no problem embracing change.

I have embraced it and found the workarounds I need to make my site work for me.

What I have a problem embracing is dysfunctionality.

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#amwriting: the truth about blogging

Who are youNothing improves your writing chops more than writing every day. Deadlines can be daunting but say what you will about not being able to write under pressure—I think that is when I do my best work.

Blogging regularly offers me that mix of self-imposed deadlines combined with the opportunity to riff on my favorite subject—the craft of writing. Much of what I have learned over the past four years has been through researching topics for this blog.

When I first began, I was only blogging under duress—my former publisher was forcing me to. This, he said, would help get my name out there, and give me a regular platform for my opinions. That blog is long gone, and those posts were pathetic attempts to write about current affairs as a journalist, something that has never interested me.

It wasn’t until I stopped trying fit into a mold someone else had designed for me and began writing about my interests that I learned to love the craft of blogging. That is also when I began to grow as a writer, because I have to work hard to proofread my own work and then publish it. If I am not vigilant, it posts with “warts and all.”

I don’t like warts in my work.

RALPH WALDO EMERSON QUOTE meme copyBlogging has made me a “thinking” author, as well as a “pantser.” I can write using the “stream of consciousness” method as I am now, or I can write it several days in advance by putting together a quick outline about whatever is interesting me at the time. I just do the research, and the post begins to write itself.

I use WordPress for this blog—and many of you know how aggravating I have found some of the changes recently implemented by WP. I am a contributor to two other blogs hosted by WordPress, and the other authors I am working with tend to find WordPress technical “support” just as exasperating as I do.

Giving me a list of canned questions and redirecting me to threads filled with complaints by other users is not “tech support.” It is, instead, clearly an effort to maintain separation from the user and any real-life problems he/she may have with using their product. (See my post of March 2, 2016: wanted: flatiron for curly quotes and other blogging twists.)

And just today they have introduced a new “less invasive” way of inserting links into the post, by which I mean with fewer options (unless you know the magic trick) and less useful. However, although it is evident the fine people at WordPress are not done messing with our heads, I am still not going to change this blog to a different platform—yet.

Instead, I will continue to work around things until they force me to switch to a platform run by people who are genuinely involved with their users and who care enough to respond to technical questions with more than circular, canned responses that go nowhere, like a snake eating its own tail.

I am a contributor to several blogs hosted on Blogger (Best In Fantasy is one), and I do like the way Blogger does NOT keep changing and fixing what isn’t broke. But I’ve been here at this little corner for several years now, and I hate moving so this will remain a WordPress blog.

I have made many friends through blogging, people all over the world who I may never meet in person, but who I am fond of, nevertheless.

This place is where I develop seminars on the craft of writing. I find that talking to you about my obsession helps me organize my thoughts. And, although I hate to say it, my first publisher (Lord Voldemort) was right about blogging. Blogging regularly does get your author name out there and showcases your work and your voice.

But only if you are passionate about what you are discussing.

I recommend blogging to anyone who has a craft they are fired up about. For novelists, I also recommend publishing short pieces—flash fiction. Little off-the-cuff pieces of less than a thousand words are fun to write and often find their way into your larger work, as they are a great way to brainstorm ideas.

If you want to know more about getting your own blog up and running, see my post of December 14, 2015, Blogging is Writing TooThis post talks about how to use the new default system here at WordPress so that you can insert pictures and make a nice looking post.

  • Keep it down to about 1000 words more or less.
  • Use the spellchecker tool to look for obvious errors.
  • Write in draft form and don’t publish it right away–come back and read it over again, and make corrections.
  • If you use information found elsewhere, quote it and credit the author
  • Use images that are either public domain, or that you have the right to use
  • Put links to other informative sites in the text

Rule number one: be consistent. I began by blogging once a week on a now defunct site—but my actual posts were more often made only once or twice a month. I dreaded it and didn’t want to do it. My blog stats were in the tank because I wasn’t applying myself to it.

One day it occurred to me that because I am a hermit and spend all day writing, my only way of communicating with my potential readers was through blogging. And it also occurred to me that communicating with other writers in the process could only benefit me.

I hated the thought of it but sucked it up. Once I realized that I could talk about whatever I wanted, Life in the Realm of Fantasy was born. My first posts stunk like last week’s garbage, but they were a beginning. With every post I wrote, I felt a sense of accomplishment, and the next post was better.

Kahlil Gibran MemeNow I am writing three posts a week on this blog, and at least one post a week for each of several other venues. I spend Sundays putting my blog posts together and look forward to the time I spend here, exploring the craft of writing.

Life in the Realm of Fantasy has evolved over the years because I have changed and matured as an author. Four years ago I would never have felt comfortable publishing my poetry. Now, I regularly post short works and poems on Fridays, some bad and some worse—but all them exercises in creative writing.

At first it took courage to lay my work out there because letting people see my work unedited by my editors made me feel like I was a teenager all over again, getting ready for the prom and hating my hair. I feared the flaws I saw in it.

Now I feel more like I am sharing it with my friends and I feel good about it.

To repeat myself ad nauseum: If you really want to grow as an author, you must write. Try to write daily, even if it is only a paragraph or two. Consider writing that paragraph as a short blog and dressing it up with a picture or two. Someone will read and enjoy it–and you may have made a fan.

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Filed under blogging, Self Publishing, WordPress, writing